Primal: I Now Pronounce You Man and Dinosaur (“River of Snakes” S1:E2)

Oh my. Primal. You take my breath away. You complete me. Move over Star vs the Forces of Evil. Step aside, Steven Universe. Garnet, we may have to agree to see other people because there is no room left after watching Spear, the boss-est cave man to ever throw a spear and “Mama Green” a devilish mega-velociraptor with a heart of gold.

I haven’t been this excited about a new relationship since, Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Jiang Wen) first appeared in Rogue One.

No. I am not making too much of this. Spear and Green are the dream team of the world they both inhabit. A world of beautiful colors, wonderful skies, verdant forests and fecund rivers. This place would be just shy of heaven if it weren’t for all the damn dinosaurs and other mega-fauna.

Everything’s big here. And hungry. And angry. Sometimes angry because they’re hungry. Which is where episode two starts us off. When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just fought off the Red T-Rex-like dinosaurs which had brought them together under unfortunate circumstances.
Pressed by their need for revenge and the Red’s inability to take a loss, they would vanquish their foe and when the episode ended, you thought these two were going to be inseparable.

Really? That was your second boar today. This one had my spear in it.

Yes, they are still together in episode two but the honeymoon period where the other person can do no wrong must have lasted about a day. The show starts with the two of them hunting wild boars in the tall grass. They seem compatible in their hunting; their techniques are similar, their senses equally acute, their skill at catching prey is also comparable, one using speed and strength, the other using intellect and weapons.

But they were not cooperating. They were competing. It is funny to watch as Green grabs boar after boar and Spear getting angrier and angrier as she steals each meal right from under his feet. But what do you tell a dinosaur who outweighs you by almost two tons?

“I’m glad we’ve had this talk. Now I’m going to go hunt MY deer. I better not see you again.”

Bad dinosaur. Yep. That’s exactly what you do. When a delicious deer bounds into view, with the unhappy couple having had more than one or two squabbles over wild boar, Spear puts his foot down.

The wordless confrontation is fabulous. His expressive face, his screams and indignation, jabbing the spear right in her face, saying without any equivocation: This deer is mine. He stomps off to hunt alone and Green, though her expressive eye did not signify defeat, she did not follow.

Satisfied his tirade got the job done, Spear begins tracking the deer, eager to get that sweet, sweet venison over an open fire and WHAT THE HELL, MAN? Green is standing right next to the deer, managing not only to get in front of Spear but right next to HIS aforementioned deer.

Look, a deer. Where could it have come from? I don’t see anyone’s name on it…

Spear rages, Green grabs the prey and prepares to walk off with it. Wait just a damn minute. We have all had that room mate. Yes, admit it. If you didn’t, you WERE that room mate which didn’t respect boundaries. The one who ate your food. Drank your beer. Didn’t chip in. Ran off with your girlfriend.

And ate all the goddamn deer after already eating two bloody boars and I have had all of this I intend to put up with! Spear slashes the deer from Green’s mouth and well, it appeared a divorce with a side of murder is about to be in the works.

They go at it. Hard. The kind of fight with a friend which may go dark because you have held in your resentment too long, a battle royale where you know it has gone too far but no one can turn back because they won’t admit to being wrong and they both know it.

Spear reveals his last name: Two-Clubs-Beating-Your-Ass

Green breaks Spear’s spear. A symbolic breaking of trust. Spear, calmly gets two clubs from the local Clubs are Us and proceeds to bring it to the dinosaur who outweighs him by two tons. He is a renaissance prehistoric man. His club game was totally on point.

Spear ends up in Green’s mouth. No. Not in a good way. You’re just nasty. This argument had just got out of hand and somebody needed to be making an apology. And I won’t be the one to… hey, um did you hear something?
Why is this mist suddenly clearing? What’s the worst that can happen. Oh. Yes, the unexplained title: River of Snakes.

Apologize? Do I look sorry to you? I’m not sorry!

You remember when I spoke of mega-fauna, a word composed of two parts: mega meaning big or giant, fauna meaning animal. Yes, a veritable sea of giant snake writhing and canoodling all friendly-like, with each other.
The gaze they gave to the two arguing over who eats what animal first, was much less friendly.

Suffice it to say, the two tried to escape but their day went from bad to worse. At this point, there is nothing I can say that won’t detract from the ending. I promise you, no man or dinosaur buddy movie ever gave you bigger laughs.

This episode had me in stitches because I have had THAT room mate. Love them, love them, but might beat them to death while they sleep because they snore like a idling jet aircraft.

Stop. Stealing. My. Food! I have the power!

I wasn’t sure what I expected when I first started hearing about this series. Maybe a cross between the Herculoids (look it up) and Samurai Jack with talking dinosaurs. What I didn’t expect was a world with intelligent mega-fauna, prehistoric men of unsurpassed toughness and cajones of pure steel, willing to bring the fight to the enemy no matter how big. What I didn’t expect was the humanity in Spear, the curiosity, the filial concern. What I didn’t expect was my empathy for Mama Green. I wanted to keep her just a dinosaur, a sidekick to my species kin, but she is so much more.

I want to commend the animators for the tiny touches of expression, eye movements, shadows, and vocalizations which bring our prehistoric duo’s non-versation to life. Though they have no words, their eyes speak volumes, the tiny flickers of movement, the masterful coloring and shadows. I have seen fear, frustration, joy, sorrow, rage, intense rage, oh my god, someone-is-going-to-die rage. And this show delivers. Someone dies. Stylishly. Brutally. Necessarily. For our heroes to live, something must die.

But what makes them interesting are the choices they make while they navigate those fleeting moments of struggle between life and death.

Spear and Mama Green: Don’t ever change.

Primal by Genndy Tartakovsky on Cartoon Network, tonight at midnight on Adult Swim.

[usrlist “River of Snakes:5”]

Funny, irreverent, with brilliantly choreographed fight scenes. Inter-species communication problems were never so terrifying, or so funny.


Thaddeus Howze
Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.